Unless the court orders otherwise (and I have yet, after 22 years in practice, to see a court order otherwise), if you lose your job, you still have to pay child support based upon the income you no longer have. Now this would never be the case if the parents were married. If a parent is the only or the primary breadwinner and suddenly loses his/her job or gets a drastic cut in pay (through no fault of the parent’s), the whole family would be expected to adjust to the reduction in income. Not so once child support is ordered. Once child support is ordered, the child support payor (obligor) is required to pay child support at the amount ordered regardless of whether the obligor has the ability to pay what’s ordered.
Another interesting aspect of child support is that child support is based upon what your ability to earn is, and not on what you choose to earn.
If you or your spouse came home from work today and said, “Honey, I’ve had enough of this rat race, I’m going to become self-employed. This means that while I’ll earn enough to meet our needs and our kids’ needs, we won’t have as much money as we use to, but I won’t have the depression and the headaches, or the mental and physical health problems that this job is causing me,” you could do that. You have the freedom to do that. If you’re married. But not if you’re divorced or never married the parent of your children.
Clearly, a parent is expected to provide sufficient financial support to provide the necessities of life for his/her children. Parents are expected to provide for their children’s basic needs, and unless a parent is a trust fund baby or has some other form of income other than through employment, parents are expected to earn money for the support of their children. But why and how could the law order a parent to provide for his/her children beyond the necessities of life, especially if the parent himself or herself has no desire to earn more money than what it takes to provide himself or herself with the necessities of life?
What if a parent graduates from medical school and realizes that he/she hates working as a doctor? What if a parent is making a lot of money in an extraordinarily dangerous job and no longer wishes to risk his/her life doing it? Child support orders don’t care.
If you can make a lot of money as a doctor as opposed to the teacher or artist you want to be, you will almost surely be ordered to pay child support based upon what you could earn as a doctor (the court can’t make you work as a doctor, but can order child support to be based upon the income you could/should be earning as a doctor), even if you are not working as a doctor.
If you’re making a lot of money working at that offshore oil rig that killed or maimed your buddy yesterday, and you’ve decided it’s time for you to get a different job that doesn’t put your life at risk, even though it may pay less than what you now earn in the life-threatening job, you will almost certainly be ordered to pay child support based upon what you earned (and could still be earning) at the life-threatening dangerous job, not at the job you want to work. Again, your spouse could never force you to work at a particular job or earn a particular amount of money if you were married, but when you get divorced, the court can effectively force you to keep working at a job you don’t want to do for the sake of paying “child support” not to your children but to your ex-spouse, who is free to spend that money however your ex-spouse wishes.
If you have historically worked overtime to help get you and your family out of debt, and your spouse happens to time the divorce action to occur while you’re still working overtime or shortly after you stopped working overtime, the court will almost surely base child support upon your historic earnings that include your overtime earnings, even if you never intended to work overtime on a permanent basis. You must pay child support based upon what you have historically earned, regardless of the adverse effect it’s having on your mental and/or physical health.
Child support orders like this deprive you of your freedom in the name of “it’s for the children!”
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277